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Court of Appeals Digest: April 1, 2019.

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Civil Published

Debt Collection


Appellant debtor appealed the District Court's sua sponte dismissal without prejudice of her Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) claim against respondent creditor, arguing that, because the District Court is a court of competent jurisdiction to decide FDCPA claims and because the FDCPA permits appellant to select her forum, the District Court erred when it dismissed her complaint.

The Court of Appeals held that a Minnesota District Court is a court of competent jurisdiction to adjudicate claims under the FDCPA and may not decline to exercise jurisdiction either because the claim involves interpreting an order of the United States Bankruptcy Court or because it involves unsettled federal law. Reversed and remanded.

A18-0789 Levine v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC (Hennepin County)

Civil Unpublished

Domestic Relations

Parenting Plans; Consultants

This case centered on the inability of appellant mother and respondent father to agree on the appropriate school district for their children. The parties' stipulated judgment and decree included a parenting plan which provided that a change in school district required the "mutual consent of both parents." But the judgment and decree also included a provision requiring the use of a parenting consultant to resolve disputes. When father withheld his consent to a school change, mother sought to utilize the parenting consultant. And after father refused, mother sought to have him held in contempt of court. The District Court, which deemed the mutual consent requirement binding on the parties and the court, denied mother's motion and granted father's motion for attorney fees. The Court of Appeals concluded that the judgment and decree required the parties to use their agreed-upon dispute resolution method to resolve their disagreement before going to court, and District Courts retain oversight of custody related matters. Reversed and remanded.

A18-0764 Welch v. Welch (Dakota County)

Driver's License Revocation

Notice of Revocation

Appellant challenged the revocation of his driver's license resulting from a failed breath test after his fall through a frozen lake on an ATV. Although the police officer mistakenly did not revoke appellant's license at the time of his failed breath test, he later did so by mailing a notice of revocation. After an implied-consent hearing, the District Court sustained the license revocation. The Court of Appeals concluded that the commissioner did not violate the revocation statute by mailing appellant the notice of revocation. Furthermore, while appellant did not receive information about his right to judicial and administrative review as required by statute, he was not prejudiced by this lack of notice. Affirmed.

A18-0853 Pace v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety (Mille Lacs County)

Driver's License Revocation

Rights Advisory

In this appeal from the District Court's order sustaining revocation of appellant's driving privileges, appellant argued that she was not properly advised of her rights under the implied-consent statute. The Court of Appeals concluded that the officer accurately informed appellant of her rights and the legal consequences of refusing to submit to a breath test, noting that the officer's statement that he was testing for the "presence of alcohol," rather than to determine whether she was "under the influence of alcohol" did not constitute a misstatement of the law or misrepresent appellant's rights. Affirmed.

A18-1074 Patnode v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety (Hennepin County)



This case centered on the employment agreement between appellant employer and respondent former president. The District Court granted summary judgment on respondent's employment agreement claim, dismissed appellant's counterclaims, and awarded respondent damages and attorney fees and costs. The agreement related to respondent's post-presidential job duties with appellant, and respondent had prepared and executed the agreement on behalf of appellant. The Court of Appeals concluded that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding the validity of the employment agreement and whether appellant's counterclaims stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. Reversed and remanded.

A18-0942 Pomije v. Digitaltown, Inc. (Dakota County)

Public Employees

Health Insurance

Appellant city challenged summary judgment granting respondent and her dependents continued health-insurance benefits under Minn. Stat. 299A.465 for the six years prior to commencement of this action. Respondent had been employed by the city as a fire dispatcher but left her employment in 2001. The Court of Appeals concluded that the six-year statute of limitations bared respondent's claims in their entirety because her cause of action accrued in 2002 and she waited 14 years to commence her action. Reversed.

A18-0285 Tossey v. City of St. Paul (Ramsey County)

Quiet Title


In this quiet-title action, appellant argued that the District Court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of respondents and reforming a sheriff's certificate of sale. Although two parcels had been covered by a mortgage, foreclosure was only entered on one of the parcels. The Court of Appeals concluded that reformation was proper, noting that there was nothing in the record to suggest that the parties intended to foreclose on less than the full amount of the property mortgaged. Affirmed.

A18-1370 Moore v. Mortgage Elec. Registration Sys., Inc. (Ramsey County)


Trust Instruction

Appellant, a beneficiary of an investment trust, challenged orders issued by the District Court in a trust-instruction proceeding initiated by respondent, the securities administrator for the trust, to resolve a dispute regarding the calculation of distributions made by the trust. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not err in interpreting the trust documents, noting that its interpretation of ambiguity in the documents was supported by the record. However, the District Court did err by dismissing appellant's counterclaims premised on the no-action clause. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A18-0768 In re Am. Home Mortgage Assets Trust 2007-5 (Hennepin County)

Unemployment Benefits

Employment Misconduct

Relator challenged the decision of an unemployment-law judge (ULJ) that she was ineligible for unemployment benefits because she was discharged for employment misconduct. Relator was terminated because she left work early. The Court of Appeals concluded that the ULJ did not err in finding relator falsified her time records. Affirmed.

A18-1165 Powell v. Wal-Mart Assocs., Inc. (Dep't of Emp't & Econ. Dev.)

Criminal Published

Predatory Offender Registration

Dismissed Offenses

Appellant challenged the District Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent Superintendent of Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, arguing that the District Court erred in concluding that requiring her to register as a predatory offender did not violate her substantive and procedural due-process rights and the separation-of-powers doctrine.

The Court of Appeals held that the Minnesota predatory registration statute's requirement that an offender register following a conviction of a nonpredatory offense arising from the same set of circumstances as a dismissed predatory offense charge does not implicate the separation-of-powers doctrine because a judge must determine whether probable cause supports the charged offenses and because registration is a collateral consequence of a conviction. Affirmed.

A18-1128 Bedeau v. Evans (Ramsey County)

Predatory Offender Registration


Appellant challenged the District Court's grant of summary judgment to respondent, arguing that the District Court erred in determining that he could be required to register as a predatory offender, that his due-process rights were not violated, and that equitable estoppel does not apply.

The Court of Appeals held that, when an individual is charged with an offense requiring registration as a predatory offender under Minn. Stat. 243.166, subd. 1b, and is later adjudicated delinquent of a different offense filed in a separate petition but arising out of the same set of circumstances, the individual is required to register if the initial charged offense requiring registration was supported by probable cause. Affirmed.

A18-0983 Thibodeaux v. Evans (Ramsey County)

Criminal Unpublished


Sufficiency of the Evidence

Appellant challenged his convictions of first-degree assault and malicious punishment of his child, arguing that (1) insufficient evidence supported the convictions, (2) the District Court plainly erred by admitting mother's testimonial statement to police, and (3) the District Court abused its discretion by imposing an aggravated sentence that unduly exaggerated the criminality of his conduct. The Court of Appeals concluded that evidence of injuries a two-month-old infant sustained while under appellant's exclusive care, combined with the fact that appellant did not seek medical attention for the injuries and appellant's inconsistent statements, supported the conclusion that appellant intentionally caused the infant's severe and life-altering injuries. Affirmed.

A18-0977 State v. Ahmed (Blue Earth County)

Plea Withdrawal


Appellant challenged the validity of his guilty plea to the crime of failing to register as a predatory offender, arguing that his plea was inaccurate because he made statements during the plea hearing that negated the mens rea element of the offense. When asked if he knew of the requirement to register in Minnesota if he was in a different state, appellant stated, "I do now, yes, sir." When asked if he knew at the time that he was supposed to contact Minnesota when leaving the state, appellant responded, "I don't think I did, but I do now." The Court of Appeals held that these statements negated the mens rea element of the failure-to-register offense because they showed that appellant was not aware at the time of the violation that he was in violation of the statute. Affirmed.

A18-0552 State v. McCain (Hennepin County)

Plea Withdrawal


Appellant challenged his conviction of attempted first degree murder, arguing that his guilty plea was not accurate because he testified to a lack of memory of certain details of his crime, necessitating a Norgaard plea, rather than a standard guilty plea, and that the record did not support a finding that he acted with premeditation. The Court of Appeals concluded that, although appellant's testimony that he hit his mother in the head with a hammer could not be used to support the guilty plea because it was not properly admitted as part of a Norgaard plea, appellant's other actions, including that he showed up to his parents' house with the intent to kill his mother, repeatedly threatened to kill her, slapped her in the head while holding weapons, and loaded his shotgun, would support a jury finding that he took a substantial step toward attempted first-degree murder. Affirmed.

A18-0289 State v. Williams (Washington County)

Postconviction Relief

Newly Discovered Evidence

In 2010, a jury found appellant guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. The conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. In 2018, appellant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, asserting a claim of newly discovered evidence. The post-conviction court denied the petition for two reasons: appellant could not satisfy the requirements of a newly-discovered-evidence claim, and his petition was untimely. Appellant's purportedly new evidence concerned only whether he caused injuries to an infant boy's genitals in 1994, which had been introduced as Spreigl evidence during his trial. Noting that appellant's newly discovered evidence was available to him at trial, the Court of Appeals concluded that he could not satisfy an exception to the two-year statute of limitations. Affirmed.

A18-0829 Schmidt v. State (Dakota County)

Probation Revocation

Condition Violations

Convicted of first-degree methamphetamine manufacturing, appellant repeatedly violated his probation conditions by leaving his treatment facility, attempting to falsify a urine sample, smuggling a controlled substance into the facility, using controlled substances, failing to submit to random testing, failing to report to the probation department, failing to complete treatment-aftercare requirements and failing to remain law abiding. The District Court revoked appellant's probation and executed his stayed, 117-month prison sentence. Appellant appealed. The Court of Appeals concluded that the record supported the District Court's findings that appellant's violations were inexcusable and intentional and that the need for his confinement outweighed the policies favoring probation. Affirmed.

A18-1201 State v. Marsh (Koochiching County)

Right to Fair Trial


Appellant challenged his petty-misdemeanor conviction for failing to stop at a red light. He argued that the District Court erred by allowing the state to play a squad video of the incident at trial in a manner that prevented him from seeing the video as it was played and by basing its finding of guilt on the video, which he had never seen. The Court of Appeals concluded that, because the District Court received and relied on evidence that appellant had never seen to find him guilty, appellant was deprived of his constitutional right to a fair trial. Reversed and remanded.

A18-0688 State v. Becker (Isanti County)

Search Warrants


Appellant challenged the District Court's denial of his motion for a Franks hearing to challenge alleged misrepresentations in a search-warrant application, and the denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a no-knock provision in the warrant. The District Court determined that the alleged misrepresentations, including the failure to disclose the fact that the trash can was shared between both units of a duplex, were not material because even if the alleged misrepresentations were removed from the warrant application and the omission supplied, probable cause still existed to support issuance of the warrant. The Court of Appeals agreed, noting that items in the trash corroborated the concerned citizen's information, even if they could theoretically have belonged to the residents in the other unit of the duplex. Affirmed.

A18-0328 State v. Young (Hennepin County)


Downward Departures

Appellant challenged his sentence for possession of pornographic work involving minors by a registered predatory offender, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a downward dispositional departure based on his mental illness. The Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion, noting that appellant's desire to be in outpatient treatment rather than incarcerated was not a substantial or compelling circumstance that would justify departure from the guideline sentence. Affirmed.

A18-1062 State v. Oliger (Dakota County)


Downward Departures

Appellant challenged her sentence for first-degree controlled-substance sale, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by denying her motion for a downward-durational departure. Noting that the record showed that the District Court carefully evaluated all of the information presented before concluding that there was no basis for a downward-durational departure beyond 107 months, the Court of Appeals held that this was not a rare case justifying reversal. Affirmed.

A18-1166 State v. Quick (Stearns County)


Downward Departures

Appellant appealed from his 60-month sentence for ineligible person in possession of ammunition. Appellant argued that the District Court abused its discretion at sentencing by either (1) basing its decision on an erroneous view of the law, or (2) failing to exercise its discretion properly. The Court of Appeals concluded that the District Court did not misinterpret Minn. Stat. 624.713 as prohibiting departures entirely and properly exercised its discretion. Affirmed.

A18-0866 State v. Williams (Hennepin County)


Single Behavioral Incident

Appellant challenged two assault convictions, arguing that the District Court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of a prior assault conviction and methamphetamine use, and clearly erred by permitting police officers to testify regarding their prior contacts with him. Appellant also contended that the District Court erred in convicting him of both offenses. The Court of Appeals held that the two offenses arose from a single behavioral incident, noting that second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon was a lesser-included offense of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm. However, the Spreigl evidence was relevant and probative, and, to the extent that an officer's limited testimony regarding the conduct of methamphetamine users went beyond what was relevant to identify appellant or prove motive, any error was harmless. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

A18-0608 State v. Stauffer (St. Louis County)



Appellant challenged her conviction of theft of a motor vehicle, arguing that she was denied her right to present a complete defense when the District Court excluded her testimony and argument concerning her necessity defense. The Court of Appeals noted that the District Court's decision did not prejudice appellant because the jury was informed of appellant's necessity defense and would have reached the same verdict if the evidence had been admitted. Affirmed.

A18-0806 State v. Bertelsen (St. Louis County)

Traffic Stops

Traffic Violations

In this direct appeal following a stipulated-facts trial and final judgment of conviction for second-degree driving while impaired (DWI), appellant appealed the District Court's order denying his motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have a reasonable, articulable basis to stop him for making a wide left turn. The Court of Appeals held that the turning-at-intersection statute, Minn. Stat. 169.19, subd. 1(b), does not dictate in which lane of the roadway being entered a left turn must be completed. Reversed.

A18-1274 State v. Kelley (Hennepin County)

Special Term Opinion



In this appeal from the judgment entered on October 22, 2018, appellants sought review of a May 30, 2018 order that dismissed all of appellants' claims except the claim for an accounting. Subsequently, the parties filed a stipulation to dismiss the remaining claim for an accounting without prejudice to "facilitate entry of a final judgment and Plaintiffs' prompt appeal of the Court's May 30, 2018 Order." In an October 19, 2018 order, the District Court dismissed the accounting claim without prejudice pursuant to the stipulation and directed entry of judgment. In the order, the District Court noted the apparent inconsistency between caselaw disfavoring appeals of partial judgments and the parties' ability to obtain appellate review of what was previously a nonfinal judgment by stipulating to dismiss any remaining claims without prejudice.

The Court of Appeals held that, when plaintiffs dismiss the sole remaining claim against the same defendant without prejudice for the purpose of creating appellate jurisdiction over a partial judgment, it will deem the dismissal to be with prejudice. Appeal to proceed.

A18-2097 Abuzeni v. Mutschler (Hennepin County)

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Publication:Minnesota Lawyer
Geographic Code:1U4MN
Date:Apr 4, 2019
Previous Article:Supreme Court Digest: April 3, 2019.
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